Although I agree more with Romney’s policies than Obama’s, I didn’t vote for him. That’s partly because, thanks to our antiquated electoral college system, he shouldn’t need my vote to win Texas. But that’s also because I haven’t seen anything to lead me to believe he actually leads with conviction, or that his policies are guided by any deep philosophical beliefs about what type of government action (or inaction) encourage the best behaviors in society. In fact, I get the impression that Obama leads with more conviction and integrity than Romney, even though I think most of his conclusions about how to solve the nation’s problems are misguided.
And I think this is the problem with the Republican party these days. It’s not that their policies are fundamentally inferior to the Democrats’. I generally believe the opposite is true. But the Republican party doesn’t know how to explain why they hold the positions they do, especially not in a way that appeals to anyone but the base. To take a few examples…
The argument Republicans make against abortion is consistently religiously-driven, but by definition that is only effective when speaking to those who already share your religious beliefs. To win over a nation, the argument needs to be based upon premises that the majority can accept. As I’ve said before, I think this argument can absolutely be made without invoking a Judeo-Christian worldview, and if we Christians really care about saving unborn lives, we need to start taking this approach.
The same cannot be said about other topics like gay marriage, for which I don’t think there are very strong non-religious arguments for or against. Although I absolutely defend the Church’s right to define marriage as it believes it is morally obligated to do based upon Biblical teaching, this doesn’t apply to our government. I may wish that our country held my beliefs about all sorts of moral issues, but if it doesn’t, it’s not my right to force those beliefs on others. I can debate the topic with others, I can work on a grassroots level to try to change the hearts and minds of the country, but I mustn’t sidestep this process and legislate my beliefs on a majority which doesn’t agree. This is fundamental to our type of government, and Christians are doing more harm to our message than good by focusing on political action rather than reasoned and respectful argumentation to promote our worldview.
Finally, on more secular topics like the role of government in the economy and world affairs, what so many people (including me) found compelling about Ron Paul was that his positions seemed clearly based upon an informed and consistent philosophy about government, rather than electability. When debating, he didn’t focus on specific decisions but on guiding principles, and historical reasons for those principles. Whether those principles are best is certainly a very complex topic worthy of much debate, but he’s the first candidate in my lifetime who really seems interested in the theory of effective government, and able to intelligently speak about it.
I voted for Gary Johnson because at a party level the Libertarians tend to focus on academic discussions about why their positions make sense, rather than the Democrats’ approach of promising handouts to the disadvantaged or the Republicans’ pro-business and evangelical rhetoric. I voted for a party focused on finding cures rather than treating symptoms. And I voted against a candidate whose theory of government I disagree with, and his opponent who still seems willing to say whatever it takes to win, regardless of whether it’s true or consistent with previous statements.